tv Stephen Browne The First Inauguration CSPAN August 17, 2021 9:12pm-10:16pm EDT
five minutes. i have no sense of time whatsoever but i remember when i got off the phone with my kids i felt as though my heart was pounding out of my chest and i felt i was worried i was having a heart attack. i've never had a heart attack but my father has had heart attacks so i was worried about that i don't remember lying on my back but i do remember them taking my hand and telling me everything was going to be okay and being a little perplexed he was reassuring me because i didn't realize i was showing how upset i was good evening
everyone. my name is kevin. i'm the executive director of the national library for the study of george washington and mount vernon. welcome to the book talk for the month of april 2021. thrilled to have you here and excited about our conversation on the firstir inauguration geoe washington and the invention off the republic with stephen. one note, coming up in may will be the third and final lecture. we've had two wonderful conversations with lynn cheney and thomas. thus far tickets are available forts the final conversation. remember that ticket if you selected a ticket i'm thinking of it will include an
autographed copy of the book shipped directly. richard bernstein noted author. i'm excited to talk to them. please join us for the final segment of the 2021 michelle smith lecture series. to introduce a little bit about the speaker tonight and more and more as we join the conversation he's a rhetorical critic george washington and the new crisis. we are mostly excited about this one as we near the anniversary of the inaugural address we are ggoing to talk about the first inauguration george washington and the invention of the
republic. he's an award-winning scholar and by the communication association please join me in welcoming stephen howard brown. >> it is so great to be here. for anyone interested in washington, this is the gold standard so i feel grateful to you and the staff, the library. thank you. >> thank you. the company that has been funding the b stalks for years thank you for supporting the work and everything we do. i'm thrilled to have the conversation with you. i want to give you an opportunity to ask questions tonight and learn about the first inaugural address but also about the first inauguration more broadly.
tell us a little bit about the election ofct the president it wasn't like any other. >> one way of getting at it is to ask how would it be possible for him not to have been elected as is familiar to the listeners and viewers he was in some ways almost a pure composite of those kind of values not only that people embraced but needed at that moment and people knew it from vermont to georgia it was very clear of course that this was precisely the person that not only an and bodied the
values but on the precipice when sthings were very unclear even perhaps especially in 89. it's interesting to note that today after the inaugural address of course the states general convened in paris so it's very uncertain and washington is balanced. >> maybe you can tell us about the environment in which washington is awaiting the news there is something of a ritualistic character given what you just said that people knew it and here it comes in its
certainty to make the ride down to mount vernon so all of that is clear and shows up on the 16th. something of a two-step band something happens where he reads him sort of an official statement from congress then he turns around and reads a statement back to him. there are these beautiful observations about washington.
he knew how toak take his lead d reminds us of the sort of stagecraft washington was so good at. that is an art unto itself. something in the theater that i think is going on here, not to trivialize but quite the opposite, i think washington for all, you know, cheese and nuts and wine over the campfire, he had very acute and developed a sense of theater and politics and he understood that under the circumstances he needed to do this right literally every step
ngof the way. so, when thompson knocks on the door that is act number one. >> is there a fear in the part of seeming presumptuous, is that what is going on or what are his concerns about making the wrong -- >> a very suggestive question. and as evidence for what i'm about to say as i certainly would encourage anyone listening or watching it's one of the most amazing works of scholarship. what we have is a nice paper trail, to answer the question, of reading and writing as the
impending years, and it is sprinkled with these kind of things. he writes to the general beforehand and very quickly says i feel my feelings are not like those of a culprit who is going to the place of his own execution. so the diminishing of expectations but again i don't thinkk that it trivializes. that is part of the stagecraft. it's important for the chief executive of the republic, the republican government to play that down, to play up the
longing and the appeal of mount vernon so as part of that choreographyf of power i think e was so good at. >> he offers that he will journey. it is a journey worthy of some attention going to what seems to be a short-lived capital, let's go into some detail because your book has someyo great detail on the travel and more importantly, what happens along the way in terms of how people are receiving. set the stage for us.
is it a large entourage or small -- >> i will remind myself to refrain becauself this is in soe ways what compelled me into the project generally. so how does this work. he's got a couple of fellows and they will keep that pretty lame so off they go. they don't get far for the listeners and viewers who are familiar with alexandria you will know i think it is 12 miles orkn something like that, give d take. that is the first of many foccasions in which washington
accepted along his way and i ropromise not to do this every step but if you don't mind, i would like l to convey something of what goes down in alexandria at the tavern as was sort of a representative of what is to transpire for the next week or so. of course it isn't just any stop along the way as we all know. it's close to his heart. so this is just a paragraph if you don't mind. they have a big meal for him and some speeches by locals as you might guess and then washington. here is how he concludes his
comments. all that remains for me is to commit myself and you to the protection of that magnificent being who on another occasion happily brought us together after a long distressing separation. perhaps the same gracious providence will again indulge us with the same heartfelt. but words, my fellow citizens, fail me. another must be left to more expressive silence while from an aching heart, my affectionate friends, and kind neighbors. farewell. >> i wish iiou could tell from e evidence on what occasions he stood up and delivered these. it's unclear to me sometimes it
is unclear whether sometimes he is delivering these as they are written for but either way that is an exquisite sentiment. it isn't actually all that long. as you know and as your exhibits have these great sort of trails along the way, first alexandria and then stops along the way. he will hit baltimore and of course there's also celebrations and the rituals of power that i
mentioned into delaware and wilmington. a look at the commentary from the day and even some scholarly coverage of that and sometimes estimates are around 10,000 people turning out. certainly at the most 30,000, and that would mean the entire city turned out. it seems like a lot, but there we have several of these sort of what would you call them, the architecture and s celebration where you have the arch and the bridge and the music and sometimes you would see an
attachment from the local. so this is a depiction of washington crossing into philadelphia for thosehi familir with that so this would be characteristic. that is theater in the best sense and we can talk about that later. but what is going on to me it seems in this occasion is a kind of interpretive on my part for sure but it isn't together all clear because nothing is but what all this should look like. fast forward since what, 12 years or so to jefferson's first inaugural as he is living in a
boardinghouse. he ties his hair back in a ponytail,n brushes himself off. okay. that's that. but here in april of 89 before there is a president after all, it is unclear but the power should look like. you don't want to downplay it too much after all it's soon a nationstate so you don't want to downplay yourself. this seems to me a modulation between european access.
they stay in the philadelphia for a stretch, because everybody wants a piece of the action. so the trustees of the university of pennsylvania, cincinnati and various parties want in on the deal and they want to listen to him. so we have a rehearsal of what we saw in alexandria but more complicated and less intimate perhaps, but still the same sort of offering up of language befitting a republican city in philadelphia after all. you've got to play this right.
afterwards then washington will deliver a statement of his own. so philadelphia is big. if you've ever been to philadelphia. but we've got to get going, as he said, he's getting a little restless here so off we go. of course you send militia and everybody else play all around him so after a few miles he says go ahead, take care of the household. it's all good. we've got it and off he goes. but now off into new jersey this
is perhaps the most well-known and widely circulated. for a variety of reasons you notice it's almost entirely women and girls. these are the women of trenton and their daughters that have been ready for this moment for weeks. they've been getting together. outfits and songs, rehearsing the songs and flower garland and so on. it's to the effect that his
excellency saved us the first time in the battle of trenton and saved the women and the daughters of trenton but it is a big bridge in the national imagination. i don't know if national is the right wordna just yet, but almot he crosses the bridge and delivers a few words to the mothers and daughters of trenton. needless to say there's music and fire crackers and balloons and so on. now he's on his way up to
elizabethtown and then eventually on to the water where of course new york city particularly is wanted for a piece of that action because they've got boats of every kind to escort him along. there's fireworks and so on where they ushered him into the upper harbor. now we are heading towards the battery and eventually into new
york city itself and here you see something like that. i think itt is entitled washington's entry into new york. was that him coming home, back from newburgh on his way back from mount vernon, hard to tell but i wanted to have it featured because it suggested something of what i would call the sort of urban culture. the 1790s census is put around 30,000 so it's just about ready to move past philadelphia. hard to tell of course because new york is a port city and the
numbers are pretty flexible, but it is clearly the case in the census records with the texture of city life into which it is now arriving and assertingiv itself t so it would have been right around 30,000. brooklyn of course in that manhattan area it would have been about 30,000, about 15% of that would have been a combination of enslaved, but there would also be an extraordinary diversity of languages ranging from the dutch influence, but the african
influence. there's going to be indigenous peoples. you have that sort of culturepl going on there is always a rich and crazy going on all the way to the high enders but that is the kind of culture and then for that day it arrives into the next day with a house on cherry street which is on the manhattan side by the brooklyn bridge. >> let me ask a preliminary question. you mentioned a couple of times. what do we know about washington something that you studied -- >> up until this moment is he a
great orator? >> that is a spot on question for me because it identifies this whole thing and that is if you will forgive the self referencing the first was on the edmund burke and jefferson and so on. so okay there's that kind of oratory and daniel webster kind of thing. clearly washington is not or would never pretend to be. at the same time, and i will try not to go on about this, but it
occurred to me for all of the mythology all you've got to do is look at the washington papers and the correspondence and so on. it's incredible. this man led his life awash highly into. did he compose all of these addresses and so on, we can talk about that later if you wish. he wasn't and ordered her in the ordinary sense of the word of it butlet me follow that up.
remember, not that you need me to remind you but washington is a m virginia gentle man and it isn't altogether clear that they have to be in order for. what about patrick kennedy. we can talk about the gentlemanly mess and the exception so i don't want to overplay this but it didn't operate through. all of that is to say maybe we need to expand our sense of what constitutes or defines eloquence or i oratory. i can tell you this march 15 of 83 when things were getting really weird and he's got
virtually the entire officer corps in that room with arguably conspiracy on their minds i don't know but maybe,lk he walks in front of the room and drops the hammer on the most powerful figures in the nation. if that's not oratory i don't knowow what is with firsthand reports. i would suggest not just because i'm trying to cheerleadhi washington but to recognize there is an eloquence of
character. there is an eloquence of the person that speaks, sometimes speaks with massive power. >> you were describing the journey and this may be unanswerable but when people are welcoming washington and philadelphia or new york where they welcoming the new president or washington and by that, i mean, what they have welcomed george washington in the same way in 1786? i'm just curious. >> thank you for the question. i could be speculative in the sense of that and i hope -- he
is the man, no question. wherever he went it would have been an occasion, but they worked welcoming. they were not welcoming a military figure. what were his contributions, to put it mildly. but you look at the letters, the speeches, the toasts. that was fun to look at the variouss toasts oriented to what
we now call the presidency and he plays that out pretty smart. there is a cromwell problem there is a man on horseback so to speak and as you know it's not real good. you can win the war but it's winning that piece that stuff and if you are not careful, you will have a napoleon over the horizon so that insistence on the civil authority embodied in the person as well as the reception ofwe the person. >> i like that answer a lot. let me remind everyone out there you can ask questions. i want to get to as many as we
can. of course he's about to be inaugurated. is there a bit of a t waiting period and what does that look like? take us up to the day of the inauguration. >> the son of this project is your imagination but then at some point you've got to settle down and have a cup of tea and think now what. now he's got a line all the way up to people who want to talk to him so there's that kind of housekeeping business that's going to go on but i want to
mention again this is in the correspondence he will write to several others asking about certain protocols like should i invite people to my place or should i wait, should i go to someone else's place for dinner, the kind of nuts and bolts of the risk of rehearsing this but what's at stake is what a republican government ought to look like. what are the particles it's not like he has much to go on as he looks across the landscape it's like everything i do is a
precedent. so the housekeeping and figuring out the rules of engagement so to speak. i do want to mention a very important dimension to all of this. what should the republic look like and as we get to the speech itself what should it sound like.. the first thing you want to do is hit them up for a job. they say i fought in trenton or
so on. washington has what turns into not really a boilerplate. he seems adapted but in any case the upshot of these responses. they are polite but very pointed which he specifies why he can't help. he says first of all to put it casually it's notng going to happen, flat-out this is never going to happen. i appreciate your service, but it can't happen and he explains why. he says this is tough.
i have to turn away but it is absolutely crucial to the fortunes of the republican government that this administration be headed by those that are competent to the task and for that reason alone and that underlines it time and time again. so he will have people over for a glass and talk about the old days that i'm sure our indeterminable interviews. he's trying to figure this out as he goes along. >> this is now a fixture in the
american civic calendar of the inaugural address. tell me about the speech and how washington puts it together and most importantly, i am interested to hear your take on the speech as the first inaugural address. >> absolutely. what are we talking about here after all. president biden i think was the 59th such speech delivered and we might ask and i promise to be responsive to the question. what we might ask as a first order of business of why. why do newly installed presidents give oath of office? they don't have to. there's nothing in the constitution. there's nothing i could find in the constitutional debates or the ratification debates.
di couldn't find a word about that. did washington invent the inaugural address? he certainly did not. variations of the theme go back for centuries in the colonies and provinces themselves we would see governors for instance deliver sort of assumption of office addresses, that kind of thing. but washington did not. so why do the presidents after? i know, because washington did. >> the speech itself as you might imagine, seven paragraphs long, about 1400 words give or take so not particularly long.
it is written in that sort of last characteristic 18th century english sort of tactical structures and so on so it's not a particularly reader friendly text for most people these days. i love it of course, but i'm use used to it. more specifically, where did this address come from? >> washington seems to have asked david humphreys -- to ask him to help him out of it. in this beast of a manuscript he said what about this. washington says i will get back to you. can you imagine a 70 page
speech? in any case, around christmas time prior to the inauguration itself in april of 89, james madison stopped by the house and they spend some time together and it's pretty clear that washington ineffective said mr. madison, what do you think of this and washington madison seems to have taken one look at it and said that's not going to happen and the two of them send themselves to the task. so for thosesehe of you familiao with madison for medicines craft, we can see it at work here in several ways. it's that manuscript that then gets tucked into washington's pocket as he assumes the office
itself. he takes the oath of office on the second floor balcony. look at all the people down below. president of the united states of america and then walks into the joint session and delivers the address. several people in attendance wrote in response on the sort of impressions several notice that there might have been a bead of sweat or two on the brow and may be a quivering in the vise and shaking of the hand back to the orator question. i don't think he ever felt particularly comfortable. that wasn't his zone but he did
it. we talk about why, but the legacy of why is because it's i think that he thought it was absolutely essential to the ethos of the republican government that our shows itself, that let's itself be known that this isn't a european deal but much less a french kind of thing or you know, some sort of ritual in the house of commons. in any case, he stands up with manuscript in hand, maybe it shakes a little bit but this is a pretty intense moment, until he a delivers the address and tn into seven paragraphs, so it's not particularly long but it is very, very pointed. one of the reasons i entered
into the project is i was struck by the relative absence frankly of the serious scar scholarly work on the inauguration and much less the inaugural address and my contribution to that. why, i don't know. you think no sense dwelling on that but even if there was a dreadful speech, still the first in any case. >> there is no policy initiative. theree is one thing you talk about. you're not advocating for a series of bills directed by this wrong or that wrong. you might see some later inaugural addresses that have an agenda or plan of action. so what is in his address, what is the substance? >> okay. very good.
it is precedent-setting but i think we could without getting into the weeds, but allow me i do want to quote one sentence. >> of course. by my account, 1,419 words long and seven paragraphs characteristically that first paragraph is the sort of [inaudible] the precedent-setting where he's careful to as it were subsume himself to become a sort of commonplace in the inaugural addresses to greater or less degree off convincing this is a kind of standard go to.
this is beyond my ability but i will do my best kind of thing. i wish i were back at mount vernon drinking and bouncing kids on my knees but this is what you have to do. there's been an appeal to divide the sanction. conspicuously not a christian language that he mobilizes, but for better or worse we tend to call the appeal and then the third, you are right in talking about the policy it is unclear what that would even mean but there's very much a statement, a vision. so we know that. the word inauguration is
foreseeing and predicting. what it looks like when you are just starting something. we then talk about article five of the constitution. this is perhaps where we see madison's hand being played which washington reminds his audience if things are not going exactly as you want, we can deal with this in that way. through the amendment process. he then says listen, towards the end, i don't want any salary for this and then concludes with again an appeal. it's a very short speech. short today if we showed up at the inaugural address in 2020 or
2024 and a speech was this length we would think that's short. >> that's true. not a as short but washington secure second inaugural address which is all of what, three sentences one paragraph isnt all it was. >> i have an audience questions and we can talk more about the speech. it's a great question i don't know the answer to. martha washington. his wifee and family were they any part of the inaugural ceremony or the beginning of the presidency? >> thank you, megan, if i may. okay. here's how that turns out. ..
>> i think, if i made to be a little impressionistic but what is really clear given the gender dynamics at play and what it meant for a female to be like that. is that appropriate or is it not? and in any case after the inauguration ceremonies and so on everybody wants to have a big party with the eggnog
-year-old ball as such to recognize it that we would think of but with the ambassador. so we would have that that washington is consistent that they wait until martha comes up. but she doesn't including incidents place staffed. >> one of the questions we ask is with a military uniform and as indicated some of these are h century images but that this
and so what? suggest in terms of the theater of power and the choreography of government one has to pay attention as jefferson was to find out. but washington was much more formidable on those lines but specifically to don the military k uniform, i don't kno. i have not come across commentary or observations to that effect. i would be surprised but in my since then it would have been
forge. but you virginians out there will understand that to have come of age under the circumstances in a time of exquisite protocol. and then to be overplayed out a little bit. of how to navigate powerful company. and then you know how to move your body especially if you are a big guy like washington was in with that athleticism.
and then to show up in boston. and that could be called the army in boston and while they were not looking at superior officers that done then in the ranks to put a stop to that in a hurry. i don't think because he had obsessive authoritarian thing going on but because the time willoi come when the guy giving you a haircut may be sending you into the front line so we need to get this straightened out real quick. that is the art of appearances. >> coming into the audience i was hoping to touch on
briefly. but talk about the cannot cure all address and i know for a fact that schoolchildren were learning a huge chunk of the farewell address for more than a century after but how do you compare the two? are there common themes? are there distinct differences? >> this question deserves a pause if you don't mind. it is a good one. in my view aside from the obvious because that
distinction with the fundamental optimism and every word of the first inaugural address and then to be addressed it never was at the liberty. and to have a very rough stretch of it. maybe not so much in failure. but i will put it this way. butt there wasn't one single word a foreign policy. opening it or to his office and it just never stopped and
feel at ease there was a battle if he looked west there was indigenous tensions. so i wish i had a better word than pessimism because he was an pessimistic binder but almost this kind of but everything. and the reason i am stumbling is because washington is older and wiser and has a few scars on him now and feeling very 18th
century. it was a world rapid the that was deeply inscribed by federations of faction power it was a rough couple of administrations. >> this has been a great conversation. for the book out there for everyone else is named the first inauguration we needed to know more about this address. too little has been written h about the subject. thank you for sending down with us.
>> i honestly don't remember we were in that situation from when we barricaded the door and finally got out. i was told it was about 20 minutes. it could've been two hours or five minutes but i had no sense of time whatsoever. i remember when i got off the phone with my kids my heart was pounding out of my chest. i was very worried i was having a heart attack my
father had a heart attack we have a family history. i must've put my hand up to my chest it shows me almost lying on my back i don't remember lying on my back. but i remember jason taking my hand and comforting me telling me i would be okay. and being perplexed he was reassuringly because i did not realize i was showing how upset i was. spent the fed
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